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A Blow to Wine Snobs ['Two-buck Chuck' wins wine competition]
American Thinker ^ | June 30, 2007

Posted on 06/30/2007 7:34:35 PM PDT by John Jorsett

It isn't exactly David slaying Goliath, but an equally unexpected victory has stunned the California wine industry. The cheapest wine in California just won top honors in one of the top wine competitions. When the national media catches-up, you will see this news elsewhere.

"Two Buck Chuck" is the nickname for the extremely inexpensive wines sold exclusively in the Trader Joe's chain of grocery stores, which specialize in upscale foods at fairly downscale prices. Produced by Bronco Winery, part of the Franzia family's wine empire, Two Buck Chuck has roiled the domestic wine industry by putting out generally quite decent wines at a price everyone can afford. I have myself been a customer, by the case. Some I have used for cooking, some I have quaffed. I particularly have favored their Chardonnay. To me, a "good wine" is a wine that I enjoy.

But I never expected to read that Charles Shaw has won the California State Fair's Commercial Wine Competition as the best Chardonnay in California. Yet, that has just happened:

Shaw's California Chardonnay took first place for Best Chardonnay from California. To some in the clubby California wine community, that must seem like a Michelin's Red Guide giving three stars to a roadside hamburger stand.

The Chardonnay received 98 points, a double gold, with accolades of Best of California and Best of Class.
How is this possible? Several factors come into play here.

First, California has had a tremendous glut of Chardonnay grapes the past several harvests, with much excellent fruit simply rotting on the vines.  Over-planting happened when Chardonnay became quite a fad some years ago, only to see consumers get somewhat tired of it and move on to other more interesting varietals, particularly Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Grigio. So Charles Shaw was able to get an adequate supply of good Chardonnay grapes at a low price.

Second, way too much Chardonnay on the market has been subjected to too much aging in young oak barrels, imparting an oaky flavor. That was the fad, stoked by certain well-known wine critics. Additionally, too many winemakers have utilized too much malolactic fermentation, producing a buttery flavor. For some reason, this, too, has been quite a fad. I prefer to taste grapes more than oak, and like a cleaner flavor in my white wines. So I have not bought a lot of expensive Chardonnay.

Third, Bronco Winery has done a fantastic job driving the costs out of wine making, using its purchasing leverage to obtain the lowest costs, and operating on a huge scale. And I say, God bless ‘em. They must be awfully smart to be able to pull off this feat.

By comparison,
Sunset Cellars, the tiny winery in which I am a partner (and which has won a number of top honors in this same wine competition) pays more than $2 a bottle for glass, corkage, and bottling costs, before we even begin to pay for the wine itself. Of course, we use top quality bottles and corks, and operate at such a small scale that we have no leverage at all on price. Our wines, which are hand-made, retail on average for about 10 times the cost of Two Buck Chuck. We also pay top dollar for the best grapes - no doubt at least ten times on average what Bronco pays for its Chardonnay grapes. (When we are able to get cheaper grapes of high quality, we charge less for our wine, by the way.)

Fourth, by selling directly to TJs, Bronco avoids the extra margin wholesale liquor distributors require. I am told that in states where Bronco is unable to get a liquor distribution license and has to use a wholesaler, the price goes to three dollars a bottle at retail. But this is based on industry gossip, and I can't cite any authority. I have only shopped for it in California, where the price is two bucks.

Fifth, the California State Fair Commercial Wine Competition is known for being one the less wine-snobby competitions.
The California State Fair competition is dismissed by some critics as representing broad-based consumer tastes rather than the palates of true wine connoisseurs. But [G.M. "Pooch"] Pucilowski, who has organized the competition for more than two decades, said he draws judges from a number of professions, including winemakers and restaurant owners.
Even considering all these factors, it is somewhat miraculous that Charles Shaw has won this award.

Incidentally, I fully agree with Bill Franzia of Bronco, who says:
"The restaurants are overcharging consumers for wine. If we could just get restaurants to sell wine at $10 a bottle, or $2.50 a glass, or less, heaven forbid. If I can sell 'em to Trader Joe's for $2 a bottle, and they can get five glasses out of it, you'd think they could sell it for $2.50 a glass and make consumers happy."
Generally speaking, restaurants sell wine at double the retail price, which makes it a luxury item with dinner. In some countries, like Italy, where wine is expected to be part of the meal, markups are much lower. Of course, this means raising food prices a bit to supply the extra income lost from wine, since many restaurants break even on food and make their real profits on the liquor sales. So the approach only works where most poeple expect to drink wine with their meals, or where a restaurant is able to make money on its food.

I hope that restaurants start taking Bill Franzia's advice. It would do the wine industry a lot of good if people could sample wines with their meals without spending $10 a glass for the privilege.

In the meantime, if you are in one of the states where Trader Joe's operates, you might consider picking up a case of their Chard - it makes for terrific summertime drinking.

And once you start enjoying Two Buck Chuck Chardonnay, give a try to some of the other fine wines out there. You will discover that there's a lot of interesting differences among various wines. There's no one "best" wine, but rather lots of interesting approaches to making this ancient and honorable beverage, including the approach of Bill Franzia, whom I enthusiastically salute.


TOPICS: Business/Economy; Culture/Society; Miscellaneous; US: California
KEYWORDS: alcohol; california; oenology; traderjoes; wine
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1 posted on 06/30/2007 7:34:36 PM PDT by John Jorsett
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To: John Jorsett

California BUMP!


2 posted on 06/30/2007 7:40:23 PM PDT by Publius6961 (MSM: Israelis are killed by rockets; Lebanese are killed by Israelis.)
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To: John Jorsett
I LOVE $2 buck Chuck. I'm partial to the Cabernet but the Chardonnay is really good too.

I picked up a couple of bottles of Black Mountain 2005 Malbec this week at Trader Joe's based on a friends recommendation and I must say this is my new favorite. Although at $5.99 a bottle it's a bit pricey for me ; )

3 posted on 06/30/2007 7:43:18 PM PDT by mykdsmom
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To: John Jorsett

ping for later


4 posted on 06/30/2007 7:43:36 PM PDT by navyguy (We have enough youth. What we need is a Fountain of Smart.)
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To: John Jorsett

5 posted on 06/30/2007 7:45:02 PM PDT by misterrob ("I've never heard of anyone going on the disabled list with pulled fat." RIP Rod Beck)
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To: John Jorsett

Gotta be kiddin’! The dude is a jerk and a fraud when he tried to sell Central Valley grapes, definitely inferior, as Napa Valley wine, and sued all the way up to the Supremes for the right to do so, but his two buck wines is good, and his assault on wine snobbismn is right on, bro!


6 posted on 06/30/2007 7:46:48 PM PDT by Revolting cat! (We all need someone we can bleed on...)
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To: GoldwaterChick

Bump for later!


7 posted on 06/30/2007 7:49:34 PM PDT by GoldwaterChick (Never give in, never give in, never, never, never give in. Winston Churchill Oct. 29, 1941)
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To: John Jorsett

I don’t even drink wine, but a lot of my friends do. I always serve them ‘Two Buck Chuck’. I buy every ‘flavor’ by the case, whenever I pass a Trader Joe’s, and keep it in the wine cellar. (OK. Garage)

I have never had a complaint, and my home-made spaghetti sauce wouldn’t be the same without ‘Two Buck Chuck’ Merlo.


8 posted on 06/30/2007 7:51:20 PM PDT by yorkie
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To: John Jorsett

This would never happen with beer.

No one is going to confuse Budweiser with a fine English ale or a top Belgian brew.


9 posted on 06/30/2007 7:51:39 PM PDT by proxy_user
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To: John Jorsett

I had no idea Trader Joes was in so many states.


10 posted on 06/30/2007 7:52:30 PM PDT by nuconvert ([there are bad people in the pistachio business] (...but his head is so tiny...))
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To: John Jorsett; mykdsmom

I like the oaky, buttery flavor of some chardonnays, it does need to be balanced and I suppose there are some wines made in this style that overpower the taste buds with those flavors. However I still drink mostly red wines. A good bargain is Trader Joe’s Coastal Cabernet made with central coast grapes and selling at $4.00 a bottle.

The wines of the central coast are undervalued compared to the pricey Napa Valley wines and I hope they remain that way. The grapes are high quality, carrying a wonderful taste of the region’s land and the winemakers know what to do with them.


11 posted on 06/30/2007 7:52:37 PM PDT by concentric circles
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To: John Jorsett
I buy the merlot and cab by the case, I love it and back in April the missus and I went to Napa for a bit of wine tasting. We ended up buying a few different olive oils and came home and opened a bottle O’ Two-Buck-Chuck.
12 posted on 06/30/2007 7:54:01 PM PDT by sierrahome
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To: Temple Owl

ping


13 posted on 06/30/2007 7:54:38 PM PDT by Tribune7 (More Americans die each day than watch Chris Matthews)
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To: proxy_user

Got a point there.


14 posted on 06/30/2007 7:56:00 PM PDT by doodad
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To: concentric circles
The wines of the central coast are undervalued compared to the pricey Napa Valley wines and I hope they remain that way. The grapes are high quality, carrying a wonderful taste of the region’s land and the winemakers know what to do with them.

I'm no expert, but central coast wines always taste better than Napa Valley wines to me - especially the pinot noirs.

15 posted on 06/30/2007 7:58:14 PM PDT by Mr. Jeeves ("Wise men don't need to debate; men who need to debate are not wise." -- Tao Te Ching)
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To: proxy_user
No one is going to confuse Budweiser with a fine English ale or a top Belgian brew.

I doubt they compared this Two Buck Chuck (Yes. I've tried all of its varieties several years ago.) to any even mediocre French wine. But at least they don't overcharge for the TBC. The mediocre French wine I am thinking of probably goes for about $8/bottle.

ML/NJ

16 posted on 06/30/2007 7:58:41 PM PDT by ml/nj
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To: John Jorsett
Fourth, by selling directly to TJs, Bronco avoids the extra margin wholesale liquor distributors require. I am told that in states where Bronco is unable to get a liquor distribution license and has to use a wholesaler, the price goes to three dollars a bottle at retail. But this is based on industry gossip, and I can't cite any authority. I have only shopped for it in California, where the price is two bucks.

I wish that we could rationalize the sale of alcoholic beverages in these United States since Prohibition has been long over. The overly complex systems that seem to be in place in most states make no sense economically.

17 posted on 06/30/2007 7:59:40 PM PDT by snowsislander
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To: ml/nj

A pint of St Peter’s Golden Ale: $5

A 24-oz bottle of top Belgian ale: $12


18 posted on 06/30/2007 8:01:04 PM PDT by proxy_user
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To: John Jorsett

2 Buck Chuck tastes different from batch to batch because it’s made from mixtures of grapes from all over, the cheapest available. They ferment them separately, then blend the wines to try to make them taste halfway decent.

I’ve tried it. It’s ‘eh.’ There are much better bottles of wine at TJ’s even for $4-5 a bottle.


19 posted on 06/30/2007 8:04:08 PM PDT by GovernmentIsTheProblem (The GOP is "Whig"ing out.)
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To: John Jorsett

better than any of the french swill......at 1/8th the price!!!!


20 posted on 06/30/2007 8:07:04 PM PDT by nyyankeefan
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To: John Jorsett

How much Chuck
Could Two Buck Chuck
If Two Buck Could Chuck Chuck


21 posted on 06/30/2007 8:12:07 PM PDT by HerrBlucher (Tack it up and shut em down Fred!)
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To: John Jorsett

Ever notice, you never hear these stories about good whisky and rotgut?


22 posted on 06/30/2007 8:15:02 PM PDT by Freedom4US
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To: John Jorsett; quantim; CatoRenasci
Bronco Wine Co. is owned by Fred Franzia, who's father was "the father" of bag-in-a-box wine (sold the family name to Pepsico in the early 1970s) and is a Gallo by marriage. Spent a ton of money in legal fees to keep the name "Napa" on his "Napa Ridge" brand, despite the fact that most of the grapes where from the Central Valley.

I will give him alot of credit by taking Napa Ridge, sticking the label of a small winery he bought out a fews years back on the bottle, and getting Trader Joe's to distribute the stuff nationwide, turning it into a cult phenomenon. I must admit that Charles Shaw's Sav Blanc is a good "emergency" pairing for shrimp, while the Chardonney makes outstanding cooking wine. Not a fan of their reds, but will admit that most Two Buck Chuck Cab or Merlot tastes not worse than alot of the $15-$25 dreck that comes with a Napa or Sonoma label.

23 posted on 06/30/2007 8:17:10 PM PDT by Clemenza (Rudy Giuliani, like Pesto and Seattle, belongs in the scrap heap of '90s Culture)
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To: HerrBlucher
How much Chuck Could Two Buck Chuck If Two Buck Could Chuck Chuck

Why do I always get the tough questions?

24 posted on 06/30/2007 8:21:02 PM PDT by Socratic (Never be afraid to try something new. An amatuer built the Ark, Professionals built the Titanic.)
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To: GovernmentIsTheProblem
2 Buck Chuck tastes different from batch to batch because it’s made from mixtures of grapes from all over, the cheapest available. They ferment them separately, then blend the wines to try to make them taste halfway decent.

Most of the Trader Joe $2 buck chuck is not blended wine but wines from little known wineries that cannot command the aisle space in larger grocery stores. A couple of years ago a $2 wine from Woodbridge, California (Near Lodi and Stockton) won the highest prize in the American wine world in San Francisco...

"The Talus Collection 2003 Pinot Grigio was awarded Best of Show & Double Gold at the 2004 San Francisco International Wine Competition. Best of Show is only awarded to a wine that the entire judging panel selects as the best in each category.

The San Franscisco International Wine Competition is the largest and most prestigious wine competition in America, judged by a nationally recognized panel of wine experts. In 2004, 946 wineries submitted wines from 21 countries. The judging is based on a blind, consensual procedure thereby ensuring the competition's integrity.

The month before the competition, I bought a case of the Talus 2003 Pinot Grigio at Trader Joes for $2 a bottle. Now, its a LOT more expensive...

The DollarTree Stores often have ONE Buck Chuck... which is not too bad. I suspect the bottle and cork cost more than the wine in the bottle.

25 posted on 06/30/2007 8:22:31 PM PDT by Swordmaker (Remember, the proper pronunciation of IE is "AAAAIIIIIEEEEEEE)
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To: John Jorsett

....box wine drinkin’ schmuck here.


26 posted on 06/30/2007 8:23:03 PM PDT by taxed2death (A few billion here, a few trillion there...we're all friends right?)
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To: John Jorsett
Unless my somewhat snooty (about wine) parents are coming I buy nothing by TwoBuckChuck. There is a real financial advantage to not being a wine connoisseur. It tastes great to me. Not as good as Diet Pepsi or a good cup of coffee but still pretty good.
27 posted on 06/30/2007 8:27:29 PM PDT by InterceptPoint
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To: Clemenza

I never buy anything but boxed wine. It tastes good to me. I’d like to see beer sold the same way. Well, sort of. It would have to be somewhat different since beer is pressurized. But a small box shaped disposable plastic beer keg would be a cool idea.


28 posted on 06/30/2007 8:32:37 PM PDT by mamelukesabre
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To: Freedom4US
Ever notice, you never hear these stories about good whisky and rotgut?

Speaking of rotgut...

29 posted on 06/30/2007 8:37:47 PM PDT by Disambiguator
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To: mamelukesabre
Speaking as someone who has tasted nearly 1,000 wines, I can say that the most important thing about wine tasting is ENJOYING it! The only reason folks like me throw around terms like terroir and bret is that, much like Star Trek fans, we don't have much of a life. :-(

I will admit that I once bought a "wine cube" at Target when I lived in Seattle (NJ bans the sale of alcohol outside of licensed "package" stores and wineries), and did not care for it. I must admit, however, that it is probably the surest way of keeping wine fresh for a long period of time, and you don't have to worry about infected corks.

Methinks the Gallo's were ahead of their time when they put the screwcap on T-Bird back in the 1950s.

30 posted on 06/30/2007 8:41:09 PM PDT by Clemenza (Rudy Giuliani, like Pesto and Seattle, belongs in the scrap heap of '90s Culture)
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To: taxed2death

....box wine drinkin’ schmuck here.

Yep, and here’s another one!! My favorite is Franzia’s Refreshing White. Soft, easy drinkin, man I love it. Hate Chardonnay, can’t for the life of me understand its popularity. Really unpleasant taste (they tell me it’s the oak, I don’t know, but whatever it is I can always tell when someone brings me the wrong wine by mistake.) When I still lived in Boston there was a Trader Joe’s not far from me, and they had an awesome Piesporter Michelsberg for 3.99!


31 posted on 06/30/2007 8:42:16 PM PDT by smalltownslick
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To: John Jorsett

I have the finest box of wine that $10 will buy in my kitchen.

Sometimes, you just want the “Budweiser” of wines, ya know?

Yes, I have other better wines in my kitchen, but for an after-work drink, why bother?


32 posted on 06/30/2007 8:42:46 PM PDT by TWohlford
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To: proxy_user; Clemenza; NautiNurse; Amerigomag; andrew2527; AnAmericanMother; A Jovial Cad; Awgie; ...
No one is going to confuse Budweiser with a fine English ale or a top Belgian brew.

Beer, as in wine is a matter of taste, personal preference, and the ability to pay.

Be +/- on this low volume wine ping list.

Oenology news ping.

= = = =

Be +/- on this low volume culinary ping list.

Culinary news ping.

33 posted on 06/30/2007 8:47:09 PM PDT by quantim (2008 => I'll take an imperfect winner over a perfect loser.)
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To: Disambiguator
Huh, cicso is a new one on me. I’ve never heard of that one before.

BTW, kids these days don’t know what “mad dog” is. When I was a kid, MD 2020 was called mad dog. If Im not mistaken, MD stands for Mad Dog.

34 posted on 06/30/2007 8:48:44 PM PDT by mamelukesabre
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To: Clemenza
the most important thing about wine tasting is ENJOYING it!

That sir, is the bottom line.

You do realize Clem, that sooner or later you are going to have to capitulate your stance on 'Roo Juice,' nyuk.

Often, the cure is worse than the disease. ;-)

35 posted on 06/30/2007 8:56:54 PM PDT by quantim (2008 => I'll take an imperfect winner over a perfect loser.)
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To: quantim
Recant my denunciation of Oz Red? NEVER! ;-)

As I have said on several related threads, New Zealand is where one should look for New World Savignon Blanc. Hard to find Jackson Estate Sav Blanc on the East Coast, but I still have a case left over from my Seattle sojourn.

36 posted on 06/30/2007 9:02:32 PM PDT by Clemenza (Rudy Giuliani, like Pesto and Seattle, belongs in the scrap heap of '90s Culture)
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To: proxy_user

I agree, I’m not into the wine snobbery, kinda of like coffee. I know beer, I like beer, I can choose different beers per the occasion. But I haven’t a clue when it comes to wine, so I drink beer.


37 posted on 06/30/2007 9:07:48 PM PDT by revtown
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To: GovernmentIsTheProblem

That’s what WE found.....after the first year we noticed a definite change in the cab we were buying....


38 posted on 06/30/2007 9:19:58 PM PDT by goodnesswins (Being Challenged Builds Character! Being Coddled Destroys Character!)
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To: John Jorsett
But I never expected to read that Charles Shaw has won the California State Fair's Commercial Wine Competition as the best Chardonnay in California.

As I happen to be enjoying a glass of Shaw 2002 California Chardonnay at this very moment, this news pleases me.

39 posted on 06/30/2007 9:22:44 PM PDT by Colonel_Flagg (Fred.)
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To: John Jorsett
"What's the word?"

THUNDERBIRD!

40 posted on 06/30/2007 9:25:04 PM PDT by Fido969 ("The hardest thing in the world to understand is income tax." - Albert Einstein)
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To: John Jorsett
BS ... I drink more than my share of wine. I’ve visited wineries all over the world ... Napa Valley, Australia, New Zealand, and more recently South Africa. I can tell you from personal experience that ‘two buck chuck sucks’ ... period the end. Anyone trying to pass this abysmal wine off as a great find doesn’t know crap about wine.
41 posted on 06/30/2007 9:27:08 PM PDT by BluH2o
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To: concentric circles
I like the oaky, buttery flavor of some chardonnays, it does need to be balanced and I suppose there are some wines made in this style that overpower the taste buds with those flavors.

For me it depends on what I'm eating.

If it's fish or chicken in a creamy sauce, or lobster or crab, then I prefer the more buttery, toasty taste of a Chardonnay that has undergone malolactic fermentation and moderate time in oak.

For fish or chicken that is not in a creamy sauce, or with oysters or clams, I like a cleaner Chard without malolactic fermentation and a lesser degree of oak. Or a sauvignon blanc.

-ccm

42 posted on 06/30/2007 9:31:03 PM PDT by ccmay (Too much Law; not enough Order.)
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To: mykdsmom

The cabernet is good?


43 posted on 06/30/2007 9:32:39 PM PDT by Suzy Quzy
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To: mamelukesabre
BTW, kids these days don’t know what “mad dog” is. When I was a kid, MD 2020 was called mad dog. If Im not mistaken, MD stands for Mad Dog.

The Wikipedia article http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MD_20/20 gives M.D. as the initials of the producing company "Mogen David", and "Mad Dog" as a nickname.

44 posted on 06/30/2007 9:38:31 PM PDT by snowsislander
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To: BluH2o

I agree. Good cooking wine.


45 posted on 06/30/2007 9:45:00 PM PDT by pissant
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To: John Jorsett
'Two-buck Chuck' wins wine competition

It will now be renamed "Forty-buck Chuck".

46 posted on 06/30/2007 9:47:57 PM PDT by Polybius
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To: Clemenza
New Zealand is where one should look for New World Savignon Blanc.

Are you sure?


47 posted on 06/30/2007 10:01:54 PM PDT by uglybiker (relaxing in a luxuriant cloud of quality, aromatic, pre-owned tobacco essence)
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To: Clemenza

E...yeaaaaup, I enjoy a taste of the good stuff from time to time. Just remember, ‘With Ripple Wine, The Party Is Fine’!!!!!
And when ya cain’t find a six of Rip, there is always MD2020 around. A little too fruity for us coinasures but it’ll do when in a pinch.
HeHe.


48 posted on 06/30/2007 10:19:04 PM PDT by biff
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To: mykdsmom
I picked up a couple of bottles of Black Mountain 2005 Malbec this week at Trader Joe's based on a friends recommendation and I must say this is my new favorite. Although at $5.99 a bottle it's a bit pricey for me ; )

I love Malbec. Thanks for the tip.

49 posted on 06/30/2007 11:00:08 PM PDT by SIDENET (Jorge W. Arbusto is the Mexchurian candidate)
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To: John Jorsett

“Three Buck Chuck” in Washington State.

Useful, at least in the Cab varietal. Never tried the Chard. A good “drinker”, as opposed to having to match with a meal. Something hearty to have with cheese and other appetizers.

God Bless America.


50 posted on 07/01/2007 2:14:41 AM PDT by IslandJeff (Bird bird bird, bird is the word)
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